Moving to Portugal From Dubai

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Written by: | Last updated on February 8, 2024 | Est. Reading Time: 9 minutes
This article is available in: en_US

Are you considering a move from the dynamic city of Dubai to the serene landscapes of Portugal? Portugal, known for its rich history, stunning coastlines, and warm hospitality, offers a contrasting yet equally enriching experience compared to the bustling life in Dubai.

It is particularly popular with digital nomads and retirees, and especially those that want a way to move to Europe. Portugal offers some of the most attainable residency visas in the EU, and so is especially popular with those that don’t hold an EU/EEA/Swiss passport and are looking for a way of obtaining residency here.

Whether you’re seeking a peaceful retirement, a new career path, or simply a change of scenery, this journey promises a blend of adventure and tranquility. Let’s embark on this journey together, exploring the essentials of moving from Dubai to Portugal.

The following are the most popular residency visas for those considering a move to Portugal:

  • Golden Visa: This program is a prime choice for Dubai residents seeking Portuguese residency through investment. It requires only an average of 7 days per year in Portugal, offering flexibility for those not yet ready for a full-time relocation. As of 2024, investment in funds, particularly venture capital funds, is gaining popularity. The standard investment amount is €500,000 but some relocation companies have deals whereby you can enter the golden visa program for less.
  • D7 Visa: Ideal for individuals with a steady passive income, the D7 visa suits those with pensions or rental property income. The income requirement is linked to the Portuguese minimum wage, requiring a monthly income of over €820, as of 2024. This is a feasible option for many from Dubai, where investment and savings are common.
  • Digital Nomad Visa (D8): Tailored for remote workers, freelancers, and digital nomads, the D8 visa is perfect for Dubai’s tech-savvy professionals. Applicants need to show a monthly income exceeding €3,280, as of 2024. This visa is especially suitable for those in tech roles, like programmers and web designers, who wish to work remotely from Portugal.
  • D2 Visa: For entrepreneurial minds from Dubai, the D2 visa offers a chance to start and run a business in Portugal. From tech startups to unique business ideas, this visa opens doors to the diverse Portuguese market.

These are just a few of the visa options available, with others including student visas also on offer. Each provides a unique pathway for Dubai residents looking to make a move to Portugal, catering to a range of lifestyles and professional backgrounds.

Reasons to Move to Portugal

  • Safety: Portugal is renowned for its safety. Instances of violent crime are relatively rare, making it a peaceful contrast to many other countries. This aspect is particularly appealing to those accustomed to the secure environment of Dubai.
  • Family Reunification: Portugal’s visa policies are inclusive, allowing expatriates to bring along their spouse, partner, and certain other family members. This is a significant factor for those from Dubai looking to maintain family unity in a new country.
  • Healthcare: Like most EU countries, Portugal has a tax-funded public healthcare system. As a resident, you will be able to access this. There’s also a private healthcare system, which you can access by paying directly, through health insurance, or a combination of the two. Many expats that move to Portugal, particularly from countries where private healthcare is the norm, choose to pay for private health insurance and use the private hospitals wherever possible.
  • Cost of Living: In general, Portugal is much more affordable than Dubai. This is especially the case if you live outside of Lisbon, and even more the case if you live inland and away from the coast.
  • Quality of Life: Portugal promises a high quality of life, characterized by pleasant weather and a relaxed lifestyle. The emphasis on family values and a slower pace of life is a refreshing change for many coming from the fast-paced environment of Dubai. However, it’s important to note that the Portuguese often work long hours and, on average, earn lower wages compared to other Western European nations.
  • Weather: While Portugal does have hot summers, they are a lot more manageable than the weather in Dubai. While you will want to avoid the sun during the hottest parts of the day, it isn’t like Dubai where you typically avoid walking outside at all.
  • Attainable Visas: Portugal’s visa requirements are relatively lenient, making it an accessible destination for expatriates from Dubai. For example, the D7 visa requires just a passive income (like a pension or income from a rental property) of €820 or more per month, as of 2024.
  • Citizenship: After residing in Portugal for five years, you become eligible to apply for Portuguese citizenship. This is a significant advantage for those from Dubai, offering an opportunity to become part of the European Union. The language proficiency requirement is set at a manageable A2 level in Portuguese. In comparison, Spain requires you to live there for 10 years before applying for citizenship and typically doesn’t recognise dual citizenship.
  • English Proficiency: English is commonly spoken in Portugal, especially in major hubs like Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve. This linguistic advantage can ease the initial transition for newcomers from Dubai. However, learning Portuguese is recommended for better integration and employment opportunities.

Challenges

Despite these advantages, there are challenges as well. The bureaucracy in Portugal can be daunting, and the quality of affordable housing may pose issues, with common problems like mould and noise. However, many of these problems are more common in cheaper properties. High quality, newer builds are less likely to have these problems.

For those moving from Dubai, another challenge could be Portuguese taxes. While Portugal has tax schemes to attract foreigners, many residents of Dubai benefit from a 0% or low tax rate. Unfortunately, it’s going to be very difficult to find the same in any EU country. However, many people choose to living in Europe despite the taxes due to other factors such as healthcare, safety, and freedom.

Additionally, by Western European standards, Portuguese wages are lower, working hours can be long, and work conditions may not always meet expectations. These factors are important to consider for those moving from Dubai, where people usually move for the higher salaries.

You should also consider the lifestyle differences. Dubai offers a high quality of life, particularly to those that earn high wages, and if you enjoy shopping and luxury services, it’s very easy to find those things. Portuguese culture, and southern European culture in general, is more focused on family, going to the beach, and spending time in cafes. While there are luxurious things to do, it’s just a very different way of life to somewhere like Dubai or the UAE.

Life in Dubai vs. Portugal

The following are some of the key differences between life in Portugal vs Dubai.

Economic Landscape

Dubai: Known for its robust economy, Dubai offers numerous high-earning opportunities, particularly in sectors like finance, real estate, and tourism. It’s a hub for expats seeking lucrative careers.

Portugal: While Portugal’s job market is active, it’s important to note that wages are generally lower than in other Western European countries. Many expats in Portugal are either retired, digital nomads, or have established income sources. However, the allure of Portuguese citizenship after 5 years, which opens doors to other EU countries, makes it a favored destination for many.

Cultural and Lifestyle Differences

Dubai: Life in Dubai is a blend of modernity and tradition, with a fast-paced, cosmopolitan lifestyle. It’s a city that never sleeps, offering luxury, innovation, and a diverse expat community.

Portugal: In contrast, Portugal offers a more relaxed pace of life. It’s a country steeped in history and tradition, where community and family often take center stage. The Portuguese lifestyle is about enjoying life’s simple pleasures and embracing a laid-back approach.

Food and Cuisine

Dubai: Dubai’s culinary scene is as diverse as its population, offering a wide range of international cuisines. Dining in Dubai can be an extravagant affair, with a strong emphasis on presentation and luxury.

Portugal: Portuguese cuisine, on the other hand, is rooted in simple, fresh ingredients and traditional cooking methods. Seafood is a staple, and dishes are often hearty and unpretentious. The emphasis is on flavor and local produce.

Where to Live

  • Lisbon: As Portugal’s capital, Lisbon mirrors the cosmopolitan vibe of Dubai but on a more intimate scale. It’s the heart of the country’s diverse job market, bustling with culture, business, and entertainment. However, like Dubai, the cost of living here, particularly for accommodation, is on the higher side. This can be a significant factor for those used to Dubai’s luxury but seeking more affordable options.
  • Porto: Porto, Portugal’s “second city,” offers a slightly more cost-effective lifestyle compared to Lisbon. It’s a city rich in history, famous for its bridges and Port wine. Porto combines urban life with traditional Portuguese charm, making it an attractive option for those moving from Dubai and looking for a blend of modernity and culture.
  • Algarve: Known for its breathtaking beaches and quaint towns, the Algarve could be reminiscent of Dubai’s luxurious coastal resorts but with a distinctly Portuguese flair. Inland living in the Algarve can be more affordable. The region’s primary job sectors, construction and tourism, provide opportunities that might appeal to those familiar with Dubai’s similar economic landscape.
  • The Silver Coast: The Silver Coast is an up-and-coming area, increasingly popular among expatriates. With charming cities like Coimbra, home to a historic university, and Aveiro, the “Venice of Portugal,” this region offers a peaceful lifestyle. It’s ideal for those from Dubai seeking a balance between serene coastal living and the convenience of urban amenities.

Each of these areas offers unique experiences and lifestyles, catering to different preferences and needs for those relocating from Dubai to Portugal.

Conclusion

Moving from Dubai to Portugal means embracing a shift in pace, lifestyle, and cultural norms. While Dubai offers a fast-paced, luxurious lifestyle with higher earning potential, Portugal invites a slower, more relaxed way of living, rich in culture and simplicity. This transition presents an opportunity to experience the best of both worlds – the vibrant energy of Dubai and the tranquil charm of Portugal.

Written by

James Cave is the founder of Portugalist and the author of the bestselling book, Moving to Portugal Made Simple. He has visited just about every part of Portugal, including Madeira and all nine islands of the Azores, and lived in several parts of Portugal including Lisbon, the Algarve, and Northern Portugal.